Wholesale markets in Maharashtra will remain closed on November 27 as traders and commission agents have decided to go on a token strike to protest against the recent changes in the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (Development and Regulation)) Act 1963.
The state government, by means of an ordinance, has practically denuded the APMCs of their control over trade in agricultural commodities and limited their sphere of influence.
Rajendra Shelke, president of the onion potato traders and commission agents association of the Vashi Market in Navi Mumbai, said they met Minister of Cooperation Subhash Deshmukh last week. “The meeting saw strong participation of leaders of head loaders, traders, commission agents etc. All of us strongly opposed the amendments, which would be detrimental to all stakeholders,” he said.
The minister promised to discuss the matter with Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, Shelke said.
The ordinance issued last month has brought about a sea change in the way wholesale markets function. Earlier, these markets had the power to regulate the trade in agricultural commodities within their area of operation, which was decided by the government. Mostly, the areas of operation were the tehshils where the markets were located. The market committees were allowed to levy taxes in lieu of services provided, which included basic infrastructure for conducting open auction of commodities, washrooms, rest houses for farmers, godowns etc. Also the committees ensured farmers got their payment the same day their produce was auctioned.
After the ordinance, these markets can’t levy cess on trade outside the marketyard and their sphere of influence is now restricted to their yards only. Shelke and other traders claimed this will increase the cases of cheating of farmers by unscrupulous elements.
Another change effected by the government was to declare markets which see around 30 per cent arrivals from other states as markets of national importance. Board of directors for these markets would be appointed by the state government. Critics claimed this was an indirect way by the BJP to wrestle control of the markets from the NCP-Congress.
Wholesale markets, like the district central cooperative banks, remain in the control of the NCP and Congress. The state government has effected many changes in their functioning, the latest being the move to curb their control over trade. Earlier, fruits and vegetables were delisted from the markets.